Apparently at the end of March I was so set to fail Nanowrimo—for which I reached 11376 of 30000 goal words, thanks, nonfiction nano is hard—I never told y’all what I read in March. So here’s a double update.
I should have written this a month ago because my brain is pretty much about to fail me for tiny reviews. Oh well, either way, I read these.
Who Thought This Was A Good Idea: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers To When You Work in the White House – Alyssa Mastromonaco. Read on the road in Minneapolis, this book is a bit of a whirlwind (yesterday, I watched The Final Year Obama documentary and it would’ve been a great pairing with this book from a different perspective, I think), but definitely a good one for a road trip. At least it is if you’re a bit of a nerd, anyways.
Inheritance: A memoir of genealogy, paternity, and love – Dani Shapiro. Dani Shapiro does an online DNA test and discovers that her father isn’t actually her father… and goes on a quest to find her biological father (uncovering some ethical gaffes of the past in the process).
Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection – A.J. Jacobs. Oh yes, back to the A.J. Jacobs memoirs I am. In this one, A.J. attempts to become the healthiest man on the planet, through a series of diets, exercises, and discussions with experts. I think anyways, it’s been awhile and a lot of books since I’ve read this, okay?
Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey – A.J. Jacobs. In this one, A.J. tries to track down as many people as possible in making his morning coffee and thank them, from the people who do the graphic design for his coffee shop, to the people who make the coffee cups and lids, to a journey straight to the source of the coffee. An over-exaggeration of a common mindfulness exercise, but a short-ish book.
The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World – A.J. Jacobs. The one that started it all, where A.J. Jacobs reads the entirety of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, annoys people, goes on Jeopardy, and joins Mensa with much confusion involving people’s hug preferences on stickers/buttons. It was, I guess, moderately entertaining? But a pursuit I’ll never understand.
The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment – A.J. Jacobs. In which A.J. takes on a variety of mini-experiments that couldn’t be their own books, like outsourcing his life to personal assistants, pretending to be a celebrity, and following all of George Washington’s random rules of life. Yes, I did have to consult the summary for these. The mini-experiment nature of these made this book good but harder to remember than the others.
It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree – A.J. Jacobs. In which, again, A.J does something ridiculous and tries to host the world’s largest family reunion, trying to steal a Guinness world record from another family for the pursuit—after attending their family reunion also. A really bizarre but interesting examination of defining family.
Mind Without a Home: A memoir of schizophrenia – Kristina Morgan. Here’s what my two-star review says:
“The difficulty of writing in a way that gives a true representation of a mental illness like schizophrenia is what makes this book a difficult read. I couldn’t follow the lines of thought well, likely because this is just how the author and her brain coexist. It made for a difficult read where I felt I was crashing in and out of time periods and not knowing where the author was at in her illness. I know one of the themes was that she too didn’t know, but in order to become a bit more educated, I as an audience needed clearer lines to understand the ebbs and flows of the author’s schizophrenia, even if I am well aware clear delineation[s] such as these don’t exist in the real world.”
My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite. The week after I read this, the Bookshare twitter chat actually covered this book. I’m not sure if I just need to read it again or what, as certain aspects of the book (which are likely cultural) and a lot of symbolism was lost on me until I did the Twitter chat. This could be more as now that I am not in school, I don’t really analyze what I am reading and just want to enjoy it? Solid 3 stars, although many rank it much higher!
Missing: A memoir – Lindsay Harrison. Around this time in March, a friend’s son went missing. I began pouring through stories of missing persons in both books and podcasts, as a way by which to potentially wrap my head around how a person can simply disappear and not leave a trace. This book was gripping and at times heartbreaking, as a college student and her family wade through the experience, tumult, confusion of her mother going missing, and their journey to find her.
The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House – Ben Rhodes. Every so often, I need to go back to the good old days of Obama, despite not being American. Easily one of the best books I read last year, The World As It Is deserved a re-read. I can’t say I loved it as much as the first time, but maybe that’s because I found the actual audio-book and I’m just very used to the synthesized voice of Voice Dream Reader’s Will and Heather. Or I found it distracting not being read by Ben Rhodes as I hear his voice each week on Pod Save the World. Either way. Still a great book.
Books read: 11
Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law – Preet Bharara. This book was a very real look at the criminal justice system, and the flaws it has from the view of a prosecutor—which differed from how I personally thought a prosecutor may look at the justice system. With a heart towards defendants, Preet Bharara explores themes in the US Justice system that are eye-opening. (For an ease-in, sort of, check out his interview on Pod Save America. It’s fabulous.)
Pants on Fire – Meg Cabot. I never thought I’d give a Meg Cabot book just two stars, but here we are. This book just felt… too basic to me? I don’t know, but the reviewers with the highest ranked community ratings/reviews on Goodreads have ranked it 1-2 stars too, so it’s clearly not Cabot’s best work. Which is still, arguably, All American Girl, in my opinion (did that ever get made into a movie? It was supposed to.). Or the Heather Wells series. Or 1-800-Where-R-U. See, lots of other good titles, this just isn’t one.
Out of the Pocket – Bill Konigsberg. Last year, I read my first book by Bill Konigsberg, and I don’t know why it took me so long to read another. So I went in full force into this LGBTQ+ author’s remaining works I hadn’t yet read. It’s been years since I took the course Issues in Sport, but I feel like this is something that we should have discussed there but didn’t—the fact that sexual orientation in sports should be a non-issue but isn’t. Out of the Pocket is the coming out of a fictional gay high school football star and the societal reactions to a non-straight athlete… and whether or not coming out will ruin his future career prospects.
The Porcupine of Truth – Bill Konigsberg. This story is just unbelievable enough to be believable—but hey, its fiction, so anything can happen. Here’s the summary, because I don’t need to re-write it, but we all know I’m always up for a good road-trip story—and The Porcupine of Truth is certainly that and then some.
The Music of What Happens – Bill Konigsberg. A high-schooler needing money to help bail his mom out of debt gets a job at a food truck, which happens to be owned by the mom of a guy in his class that he’s noticed. Obviously they fall in love with some confusion, but also they are hit by a legitimate Series of Unfortunate Events, except not by Lemony Snickett, including the food truck being hauled away… and fighting to get it back.
Let’s Talk About Love – Claire Kann. Okay so while we’re into LGBTQ+ characters, lets swing into another realm known as hooray, fiction about asexuals! Representation is important. Alice is perhaps the most awkward but classic character, her girlfriend broke up with her after learning Alice is asexual, only to develop a massive crush on this dude at the library she works at. But the part of this book I really, really loved was Alice’s relationship with her two friends she lives with, and how she stands up to her parents who expect her to become a lawyer when she really does not want to. It’s like, classic young adult life shit and confusion, with the twist of ace-ness that makes it different than every other story about a girl falling in and out of love.
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives – Dashka Slater. I think this book is written for middle-grade kids but the tone isn’t quite right, more suitable for a semi-academic read for an older crowd. The balance of story, fact and tone were awkward at times, and I think the author struggled to weave these together appropriately. The story of a boy lighting an agender individual’s skirt on fire on a bus leading to severe burns changes both of their lives, equally explores the factors that led both parties together on a bus for just a few minutes each day on the way home from school that led to the incident—and to learning and forgiveness. Certainly not everyone needs to nor should forgive their attacker… but the process certainly made for an interesting part of the story.
The Pregnancy Project – Gaby Rodriguez. It sounds crazy but it’s true: a teenage girl, with permission of the school and her mother, faked a pregnancy for her senior project. Gaby’s mom and sister were both teen moms, and feels everyone is expecting her to get pregnant like they did. So, as a social experiment she “does”. I’m still so confused by the ethics of this decision on the part of the school, but this book was super interesting.
Life Will Be the Death of Me… And You Too! – Chelsea Handler. Ugh, so I rated this three stars because it was generally enjoyable-ish, but also, every time I think of it my reaction is just that—ugh. Chelsea Handler is basically a famous person who can’t do anything for herself and finally figures it out, and then pays tons of money to famous psychologist Dan Siegel to help her sort out her not-normal-person-problems. Her problems are clearly valid, I am just basically irritated by the premise and tone of this book since like, she couldn’t figure out how to turn off her speaker because she never had to before and had to sleep with music on all night, and is just somehow able to have her dog running around in her first class pod? Writing this mini-review makes me feel like downgrading my rating. Anyways, I think my bottom line is: the self-discovery (of Chelsea) is interesting, but the anecdotes of not knowing how to do anything are annoying.
(I should probably add here that I’ve met Dan Siegel and done a workshop with him once at Stanford Medicine X. Which is clearly not therapy, but a fun-fact.)
Dear Nobody – Berlie Doherty. Teenage girl gets pregnant, teenage boy is the dad. The interesting thing is this is mostly written from the teenage father’s perspective, but also through letters from the mother-to-be to her unborn baby, whom she calls nobody. Predictable-ish storyline but still leaves you guessing at parts, like any teen pregnancy story should. (Well, save for that one two books up… the biggest twist there was knowing she was actually not pregnant, but I digress.)
Tash Hearts Tolstoy – Kathryn Ormsbee. I liked this book more than I’d thought I would, given it’s a fictional account of YouTube fame and all. I felt like it pretty accurately captured the weirdness of that kind of a thing, while having a character who was just quirky enough and had like, normal problems, like draining her college fund to go to a YouTube awards thing in Orlando, problems with friends, and a weird obsession with Tolstoy. It was kind of refreshing to actually see a character whose entire world wasn’t tragically falling apart.
Radio Silence – Alice Oseman. Not that this book wasn’t good but again it’s another of those let’s throw EVERYTHING into this book. Everything. type books. And at times, it’s a bit much because while life is truly chaotic, I get it, I feel like all the things in this one was a bit much. I could start to describe it, but we might be here the length of the book with all the things it contained. It was in no way bad, but yeah, a lot going on. To the extent I can’t even provide a summary other than it was based around a podcaster and a super-fan randomly knowing each other IRL without knowing it, and that spinning into a whole web of things.
Books read: 12
Books read in 2019 so far: 49/115 – 43% to goal.
Again, what are you reading? Add me on Goodreads, I think we can still discover our book-matching-ness on there? That could be fun. (Yes, we can still discover our book-matching-ness but possibly only from a computer, not the app.)